The moment you step into the Holy Images of the Ineffable Realm Thangka exhibition at Yuyuan Art Gallery, you embark on a rich artistic journey that brings you face-to-face with this distinctive Buddhist art form involving religious images on cotton and silk, as embroideries, block prints and paintings.
“Thang” means “infinite space,” and “ka” means “magic.” Combined, Thangka means “creating one to one million Buddha images on a piece of canvas.” It is also known as scroll painting.
Thangka depicts the doctrines, deities and Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism. And the art form is a major part of Tibetan culture.
Their production involves an extremely strict procedure. This starts with the performance of rites in preparation for embarking on a work, producing the canvas, drafting the composition of the pictures, and consecrating the piece.
Works from three famous Thangka artists have been chosen for this exhibition. Chigyub is one of the first batch of inheritors officially designated under the National Intangible Cultural Heritage program.
The other two are Lubtsang Tanpa and Tseten. All of them learned Thangka painting from previous consummate masters.
With a width of 155 centimeters and a height of 110 centimeters, Tseten’s Amitabha Buddha in Sukhavati (pictured below) was made with mineral pigments and gold on canvas.
Traditionally, all the pigments for Thangka adopt the colors of metals and minerals such as gold, silver, pearl, agate, coral, malachite and cinnabar, as well as plants like saffron crocus, rheum officinale and indigo to show its sacred status. All these colors guarantee the Thangka paintings will remain bright for years. Tseten spent 10 months on this work.
The largest Thangka painting in the exhibition is Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara, which is 200 centimeters by 115 centimeters and took Tseten eight months to finish. It features the 11-headed Avalokitesvara, by whose grace living creatures survive as long as they do no evil.
With her 1,000 eyes, she has profound insight into the whole world, and with her 1,000 hands she can shield and sustain people. Her front three faces and three faces on the right side show mercy, while the three on the left and the one behind display anger. The face on the top appears as the face of Amitabha Buddha, presenting a quiet and still air.
Di Jun, the manager of Shanghai Guanen Art which co-organized the show, said that he hopes the exhibition will help showcase Tibetan art to visitors from home and abroad over the Chinese New Year period.
Date: Until March 7, 9:30 am to 6:30 pm
Venue: Yuyuan Art Gallery 豫园艺术苑
Address: 3/F, Huabao Building, 265 Fangbang Road Middle
Call 189-1675-2272 for details